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Bible Commentaries

Arno Gaebelein's Annotated Bible
Esther 2

 

 

Verse 23

ESTHER CHOSEN QUEEN AND MORDECAI’S DISCOVERY

CHAPTER 2

1. The suggestion (Esther 2:1-4)

2. Mordecai and Esther introduced (Esther 2:5-7)

3. Esther brought to the king’s house (Esther 2:8-11)

4. Esther chosen as queen (Esther 2:12-18)

5.Mordecai’s discovery and exposure of the plot (Esther 2:19-23)

Esther 2:1-4. This probably did not happen immediately after the feast. We learn this from verse 16 in this chapter. He took Esther in the place of Vashti in the seventh year of his reign, but the feast described in the opening chapter happened in the third year. About four years elapsed. During these years, profane history tells us, Ahasuerus (Xerxes I), undertook a campaign against Greece with which many misfortunes were connected. He must have returned exhausted and unhappy. Then his conscience spoke. He probably missed the companionship of Vashti and he remembered her and what was decreed against her. But why did the monarch not take Vashti back into favor and forgive her, if remorse troubled him? As nothing more is said of Vashti it is more than probable that she was put to death. Perhaps the unfortunate war, the great losses he had sustained, were looked upon by the king as being the punishment for his drunken wrath against the queen. Then the courtiers made their suggestions which is in fullest keeping with the customs of Persia and still practised by oriental sultans and shahs. Fair young virgins are to be brought to the harem, the house of the women, under the custody of Hegai, the king’s chamberlain and keeper of the women. The king was well pleased with this suggestion.

“One cannot but admire the simple, quiet historical style of our narrative. Laying aside all the reports which only would prolong our way of coming to the essential part of the contents of the book, there is nothing omitted which would contribute to the historical and psychological introduction and illustration. How much is necessary to happen before Israel could have ready help in time of need! What great things, according to the external appearance, must precede, in order to make it possible that a Jewish girl by the influence of her charms ascend the throne of the Persian Empire! The great conference of all the officers of the state, the dreadful war with Greece, and the unfortunate issue of the same, were they not in the hands of Providence so many stepping stones in the path of Esther’s ascendancy? in order to replace the loss of Vashti, a woman of equal endowments must be sought for the king, wherever and however it might be! How many things must subserve to the frustration of Haman’s wicked plan! The wrath of Xerxes against Greece, and his wrath against his wife. Court intrigues against the powerful influences of a wife, and the vain conceit of offended sovereignty? First drunkenness, then homicidal passion, then new excited sensuality, were the sad instruments which preceded Israel’s redemption.

“When the people were delivered, they could well be penitent when they considered the way in which Vashti--though not herself guiltless--was one of the main causes of their deliverance. And if deep penitence must have resulted from the reflection that a woman like Vashti had to die a violent death in order that the people of God should live,--what kind of penitence must the thought call forth when we remember that Christ gave His Life in order that Israel and the Gentiles might live” (Professor P. Cassel).

Esther 2:5-7. These verses introduce us now to the leading actors in this book. Mordecai, the Jew, was the son of Jair, the son of Shimei, the son of Kish, a Benjamite; who had been carried away from Jerusalem with the captives which had been carried away with Jechoniah king of Judah, whom Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon had carried away.

Here we face one of the inconsistencies charged by higher criticism. But their mistake is quite apparent. They claim that Mordecai belonged to the captives carried away by Nebuchadnezzar. Then they say, that being the case Mordecai must have been over 130 years old and Esther at least 70 years. But does it say that Mordecai was carried away at the time of King Jechoniah? It was not Mordecai who was carried away but his great-grandfather Kish. “The clear and instructive intentions of the historian in this genealogical passage are evident. He points out, through the enumeration of the four generations from Kish to Mordecai, the time which elapsed since the banishment of Jechoniah, which took place before the destruction of the temple. The period of about 120 or more years which since then elapsed to the sixth year of Xerxes are exactly expressed by the four generations. We have also some intimation concerning the period of the narrative, which is assigned to the reign of Xerxes I. That Kish was a Benjamite, is only told for the purpose of distinguishing him from other men with the same name who belonged to the tribe of Levi. One might have thought it impossible that Biblical expositors should commit the mistake of making the information concerning the exile of Jechoniah refer to Mordecai himself--an idea for which there is neither textual nor historical foundation, but rather both against it” (Professor Cassel). Mordecai had brought up Hadassah. She was an orphan, fair of form and good of countenance, his uncle’s daughter. Mordecai had adopted her. Hadassah means “myrtle” and Esther “star.” Critics have identified the name Esther with Babylonian goddess Isthar (similar to Ashtoreth), and they also claim that Hadassah was the Babylonian title for the same goddess. But such statements are mere inventions.

Esther 2:8-11. Esther on account of her great beauty was taken with the many other virgins in obedience to the King’s command. Jewish tradition informs us that Mordecai, her guardian and second father, had kept her concealed, in order not to be obliged to deliver her to the royal agents, but people who knew her, and who had not seen her for some time drew the attention of the agents to the concealment. She with the others is placed in charge of Hegai the keeper of women. In all we see the hand of the Lord preparing step by step the help needed for the preservation and deliverance of His people during the approaching crisis. And Esther pleased Hegai; he showed her kindness. This kindness was expressed in furnishing her the means of improving her appearance, such as cosmetics and perfumes, according to Oriental customs. Then she received no doubt beautiful garments and jewelry to enhance her person still more. Then the best place in the house of the women was given to her and the seven maids who waited on her. (Very interesting and curious is the Jewish tradition concerning these seven servants. This tradition as preserved in the Targumim makes their names to correspond with the work of the six days of creation. Thus the fourth maid-servant’s name was “Starlight” because on the fourth day the heavenly bodies came into view. Remarkable is the name of the maid who attended her on the sixth day--Friday; her name was “Lamb.” On the seventh day, the Sabbath, the servant’s name, who waited on her was “Rest”‘ she reminded Esther of the Sabbath. And the Servant who attended her on the day after the Sabbath (Our Lord’s day) bore the name of the mystical bird Phoenix, the symbol of light, rising out of the fire and out of death. It is certainly interesting, to say the least, to find such traditional statements.)

And Esther had not showed her people and her kindred. This was done on the advice of Mordecai. This has been characterized as deception, extraordinary adroitness, and cowardice. It was neither. Divine Providence ordered it thus. Inasmuch as Esther’s parents were dead such concealment of nationality was not difficult; had her parents lived it would have been next to impossible. Had it been known that she belonged to the alien race, intrigues for her destruction would have soon been set afoot. Haman’s wicked endeavour may even then have been in process of planning. Mordecai walking daily before the court of the women’s house, proves his great concern for his adopted daughter.

Esther 2:12-18. The description of Esther 2:12-14 is a perfect picture of Persian customs and the licentiousness of Persian and other Oriental rulers. In due time Esther’s turn came to be presented to the king. “She required nothing.” Professor Cassel in his exposition gives the best exposition of this statement. The other women could not find enough artificial means with which to make an impression upon the king. But Esther cared nothing about these things. She had no such ambitious desires. Her heart did not burn to become something illustrious, yet unbecoming to a Jewess. Reluctantly she must have left her home, and reluctantly she must have put on the ornaments. She was wanted, and was ordered to appear, and therefore she obeyed Hegai and allowed herself to be prepared for the occasion. She was compelled to be there, while no doubt in heart she detested the whole affair.

She was brought in to the king. Attracted by her beauty he set the royal crown upon her head and the Jewish maiden became queen in the place of Vashti. This took place in the month Tebeth in the seventh year of the reign of Ahasuerus.

Then a great feast was made, even Esther’s feast, a release was made, probably a release of prisoners and taxes and gifts were bestowed. God in His providence.

Esther 2:19-23. This paragraph contains another important providential event which in the subsequent history plays a very leading part. The opening words of verse 19 have been pronounced obscure by critics. “And when the virgins were gathered together the second time.” Jewish expositors have explained this as meaning a conspiracy, that the enemies of the new queen had collected more virgins so that in some way Esther might be eclipsed and placed into the background. It is claimed by others that the words “the second time” should be omitted from the text as there is some doubt about them. If this is done the statement would then refer to the gathering of the virgins mentioned in the eighth verse of the chapter. But the suggestion that the second gathering was an act of conspiracy might be the true meaning; it would show the purpose of the unseen enemy and it also explains the watchfulness of Mordecai. He sat at the king’s gate. It was according to oriental custom a place of public resort, where news was heard and conversation with friends and others were carried on. The suggestion by some that Mordecai sat in the king’s gate because he was an official of the government must be dismissed as incorrect.

Esther 2:20 informs us of two interesting facts. Esther did not disclose her nationality and she continued in humble obedience to her foster father as if she were still under his roof and not the great queen. The royal glory and dignity which surrounded her on all sides had not affected her in the least. She had not forgotten that the whole royalty was not a matter of pleasure to her, but only an act of obedience, the providential purpose of which she did not know, but which she found out afterward. Her interest was with Mordecai outside and not with the royal splendour inside.

Let us note the providential leading in all this. If Esther had revealed her connection, if it had become known that Mordecai at the gate was her uncle and she his adopted daughter, he would not have remained in the obscure position before the gate. Then the conspirators would have been cautious and not spoken within the hearing of such a person so closely related to the queen. The knowledge of the planned attempt upon the life of the King Mordecai owed to the fact that nobody knew who he was and therefore paid no attention to him.

The conspirators were Bigthan and Teresh. They sought to lay hands on the king. According to Jewish tradition they intended to put a venomous reptile in the king’s cup when he was about to drink. The plot was overheard by Mordecai who at once communicated the fact to Esther and she told the king of it in the name of Mordecai. She did so guided by the divine hand, which is so evident in this remarkable history. The plot is at once investigated and the report is found true. The conspirators were hanged and the event is historically recorded in the book of the Chronicles. (King Ahasuerus, Xerxes, lost his life by assassination in 465 B.C. Artaban, the commander of his cavalry, conspired with Mithridates, his confidential chamberlain, who admitted him into the king’s bedroom, and Artaban stabbed him to death while he slept.)

Esther had saved the king’s life by giving him the report of Mordecai. And Mordecai received no reward. His faithfulness was evidently forgotten; but God had ordered it all.

Typical Applications

Dispensationally Esther typifies the Jewish remnant, which will be called by the King of Israel, our Lord, when Gentile-Christendom has been disowned and set aside for its unfaithfulness, as Vashti was set aside. The parable of the good and the wild olive tree in Romans 11 is thus illustrated by Vashti and Esther. The branches of the wild olive tree--professing Christendom (but not the true Church) which were grafted in upon the root of the good olive tree (Israel and the Abrahamic covenant) on account of their failure will be cut out and cast aside. The broken off branches (the remnant of Israel) will be put back upon the root of the good olive tree. (See annotations on Romans 11, or for a fuller exposition read “The Jewish Question,” an exposition of Romans 11 by A.C. Gaebelein.) This remnant will then be brought into definite relationship with the Lord, pass through the period of the great tribulation, foreshadowed in Haman’s wicked Plot, and then receive the kingdom, be delivered and have part in the kingdom, as it was the case with Esther, Mordecai and the Jews at Shushan.

The gospel application is also of interest. The humble Jewish girl is raised to the place of a queen, to the place beside the King. She did not seek that place. It never entered into her mind to receive such a place. She was sought for. All this illustrates the gospel by which the beggar upon the dunghill is raised to sit amongst princes and to inherit the throne of glory (1 Samuel 2). She, who was a foreigner, becomes married to the king, to share his glory, his riches and his honors. And so the believing sinner becomes one spirit with the Lord, a member of His body “flesh of His flesh and bone of His bones,” to share His eternal glory and His eternal riches.

 


Copyright Statement
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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.

Bibliography Information
Gaebelein, Arno Clemens. "Commentary on Esther 2:4". "Gaebelein's Annotated Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/gab/esther-2.html. 1913-1922.

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